White deer
Photo by Sheri Ashdown

Rare white deer spotted in Northern B.C.

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A deer that’s white as snow is the result of a genetic mutation, but many also see it as a spiritual symbol. One such albino deer, spotted in Fort St. John in Northern B.C., has both local residents and scientists in awe.

Some residents see the rare white deer as akin to the Kermode bear, also known as the Spirit Bear. The Kermode is an all-white subspecies of the black bear residing along the coastal islands and mainland of Northern B.C. that’s of great importance to some First Nations people.

However according to Ken Otter, a biology professor at the University of Northern B.C., this particular “Spirit Deer” more likely has a type of albinism. Otter noted the deer has a light-coloured nose and eyes, suggesting the deer cannot produce any dark pigment at all.

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A rare white deer camouflages with the snow. Photo by John-Paul De Melo.

And while some residents are concerned about protecting the white deer, Otter notes it should be safe from trophy hunters.

“They actually do fairly well because people are fairly keen on them and they don’t hurt them or harm them,” he said in an interview with the CBC.

The white deer up close and personal. Photo by Sheri Ashdown
The white deer up close and personal. Photo by Sheri Ashdown

Yet last year, a hunter in Missouri shot and killed a rare albino buck that was beloved by the local community, and in Michigan, an 11-year-old boy shot an albino buck with a crossbow and posted photos of the kill on social media. Both cases provoked outrage online.

All-white deer seems at home in Fort St. John, B.C. Photo by Carolyn Maguire
All-white deer seems at home in Fort St. John, B.C. Photo by Carolyn Maguire

The news of the all-white deer in Fort St. John comes in the wake of recent reports that Spirit Bears are in decline due to a new threat: the grizzly bear. In some regions, grizzly bears are moving into the territory of Spirit Bears, which usually don’t need to share their salmon fishing territory.